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Popular music: Home

Popular music

Sources for background information


Encyclopedias can provide an introduction to a popular music theme or subject. Besides listing biographical information, statistics, recordings, and definitions, encyclopedia articles may also recommend further reading.

  • The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music
    ML102 P66 G84 1995
  • Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World
    ML102 P66 C66 2003
  • Garland Dictionary of World Music
    ML100 G16 1997
  • The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll
    ML102 R6 R64 2001
  • Encyclopedia of Canadian Rock Pop & Folk music
    ML102 P66 J33 1994
  • Allmusic


  • Popular Music Studies: A Select International Bibliography
    ML128 P63 P67 1997
  • Rock Music Scholarship
    ML128 R6 G37 1995
  • A Guide to Popular Music Reference Books: An Annotated Bibliography ML128 P63 H34 1995
  • Rock Stars/Pop Stars: A Comprehensive Bibliography, 1955-1994
    ML128 R6 L49 1994
  • The Literature of Rock, I, II, and III (1954-1990)
    ML128 R6 H63


  • The Great Rock Discography, 7th ed.
    ML156.4 R6 S8 2004
  • Moanin’ Low: A Discography of Female Popular Vocal Recordings, 1920-1933
    ML156.4 W6 L35 1996 (4th floor)
  • The Canadian Singles Chart Book: 1975-1996
    ML156.4 P6 L85 1996 (4th floor)
  • The Billboard Book of Number One Hits
    ML156.4 P6 B76 1988 (4th floor)
  • Billboard Top 1000 Singles, 1955-1986: The 1000 Biggest Hits of the Rock Era
    ML156.4 P6 W454 1986 (4th floor)

Searching the Library catalogue

Use the basic word(s) anywhere or advanced keyword search in the library catalogue. You can search using words for such things as historical periods (e.g., baroque, renaissance, romantic), musical genres (e.g., punk, folk songs, symphonies), musical styles (e.g., galant, bop, minimalist music), instruments, and individual musicians.

Truncation symbol: ? e.g. pop? will retrieve catalogue records containing the words pop, popular, popularist, etc.
Phrase searching: "___" e.g. "rock music" will retrieve catalogue records containing the phrase rock music
Boolean operators: (), AND, OR, NOT
default: AND
e.g. "popular music" AND (quebec OR canada) will retrieve catalogue records containing the phrase popular music AND either of the words quebec OR canada

Browse by call number

From the Basic Search screen of the Classic library catalogue, select Call number begins with... and enter one of the call numbers below, or simply browse the Music Library shelves at:

ML3469 – 3541 Popular music – general
ML3506 Jazz music
ML3521 Blues music
ML3534 Rock music

Search by subject heading

Search by subject heading

From the Basic Search screen of the Classic library catalogue, select Subject heading begins with... and enter one of the phrases below.

Popular music
Protest music
Punk rock music
Rock music
Folk music
Rap (Music)
Soul music
Country music
World music
Music and globalization
Rock musicians
Women rock musicians
Women in music
Gender identity in music
Feminism and music
Music and race
Music and technology
Sound recordings

Try adding these phrases to the headings above:

social aspects
political aspects
history and criticism
criticism and interpretation

For example: Punk rock music - history and criticism

Core and additional databases

The most efficient way of finding periodical literature is to search in literature databases, since individual articles are not indexed in the Library catalogue. Try the following databases:

Core music databases

  • Rock's Backpages
    Provides a selection of full-text articles from some of the major magazines in pop music history as well as a collection of archival audio interviews.
  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature
    Indexes the music scholarship of over 100 countries: journals, books, conference proceedings, and dissertations
  • Music Index Online
    Indexes over 700 international music periodicals, both popular and scholarly
  • Music Periodicals Database (formerly IIMP - International Index to Music Periodicals)
    A database that indexes both scholarly and popular music periodicals, including over 80 with selective full-text


Chart databases

  • RPM Weekly Charts
    (Canada, 1964-2000) Over 10,000 charts from the groundbreaking Canadian music periodical, RPM Weekly

Additional databases

Music—and popular music in particular—is a multidisciplinary area of study. You will find much relevant literature in other literature databases related to women studies, alternative presses, history, political science, communication/mass media studies. Access these from the McGill Library Article Indexes and Databases.


  • Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive
    Offers full-text access to major music periodicals such as New Music Express as well as trade publications from other sectors of the entertainment industry
  • Reader’s Guide (Canada and US)
    a database that indexes the most popular general-interest periodicals of Canada and the United States
  • CPI.Q:Canadian Periodical Index (Canada)
    Provides citations and full-text to Canadian general-interest periodicals
  • Alternative Press Index
    Indexes international alternative, radical, and left periodicals, newspapers, and magazines
  • Expanded Academic
    Provides citations and often full-text and graphics to literature from across all academic disciplines. Includes scholarly publications, magazines, and newspapers
  • Academic Search Complete
    Indexes over 8000 scholarly journals from nearly all academic disciplines; over 4500 journals are available in full text
  • ProQuest Research Library
    Indexes citations and provides full-text access to journals, magazines, and newspapers on a broad range of general reference subjects



Newspapers are often useful sources of profiles of popular musicians and performance reviews; or broader discussions of popular culture. Consult McGill Library's Newspapers page to gain online access to recent Canadian and international newspapers.

The full text of free Quebec weeklies, such as The Mirror and Voir, that cover many alternative groups and performances are indexed in

Online historical newspapers include the complete run of The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, the New York Times, and The Times (London).

In general, however, pre-1990 newspapers are searchable only through print indexes and full-text is found on microfiche only.

All print indexes to newspapers and general-interest periodicals are available at the Humanities and Social Sciences Library in the Reference Section. Ask a reference librarian for assistance in selecting the proper index for the newspaper and year of interest. Please note: performance reviews may not be found in every index or may be grouped under a specific heading such as “Concerts, review…” or “Performance” or “Reviews.”

Dissertation databases

Dissertations are book-length papers written by graduate students in partial fulfillment of a Ph.D. or other doctoral degree requirements. Because they represent new areas of research and undergo a rigorous academic evaluation process, dissertations can be excellent resources for finding information on popular music topics. Be sure to check their bibliographies for further reading.

For more online dissertation resources, consult the theses page.

Recordings databases

The Music Library audio / video collection includes many popular music recordings. For further information on locating these recordings consult the How to find recordings page.

The Music Library subscribes to several recordings databases. For a complete list, consult the Music Library's Audio page. One option is DRAM, which focuses on avant-garde music released on smaller labels such as New World, Albany, and XI Records.

Smithsonian Global Sound, accessible via the BAnQ, contains recordings of diverse musical forms representing cultural groups from around the world (requires free subscription to remote services).

Selected Internet sites

Accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.

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Music Library Staff
Elizabeth Wirth Music Building
3rd floor - 527 Sherbrooke Street West
Montreal, Quebec H3A 1E3

Resource key

  • McGill users only
  • Open access resource
  • Free resource
  • In-library use
  • Catalogue record

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